Society / The Seen

The Third Annual Runway for Rise Was Pure Joy

The Sold-Out Fundraiser for the Ashford Rise School of Dallas is Also the Season's Most Fun Fashion Show

BY // 03.06.20

I’ll admit, my friend and I didn’t know much about The Ashford Rise School before attending Runway for Rise’s annual fundraiser at The Ritz-Carlton last weekend, but within minutes, we were looking up ways to volunteer our time at the nonprofit.

For anyone else lacking in knowledge, the Rise Program originated at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and focused on serving the needs of toddlers and preschoolers with developmental disabilities. Under the leadership of program director Martha Cook, Ed.D., Rise developed an effective, quality approach to early education, with classes that included students both with and without developmental disabilities — a unique component of the school.

Catherine Hill, Carolina Moy, Mimsy Brewster, Lucia Rogers

By 1998, a Dallas family had raised enough funds to open The Rise School of Dallas and Houston, emulating the Alabama program and receiving certification as an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. In 2016, the inclusive Dallas preschool moved from its original home at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to Moody Family YMCA on Preston Road. (A generous donation from Ashford Incorporated accounts for the slight name change.)

In 2018, the school began holding Runway for Rise, its signature fundraising event, silent auction, and fashion luncheon — the models are students (both with and without disabilities). Given the small stature of the young models, all required a chaperone. At this year’s sold-out event, fathers and father figures took a back seat to the runway’s real stars, who wore everything from The Tot and Layette to Little Goodall’s whimsical, handmade children’s clothes (if you’ve yet to see the brand’s Rainbow Dreamer Coat, brace yourself for cuteness impact).

Modeling a Little Goodall Swan Dress at Runway for Rise.

It was (understandably) a bit chaotic, but possibly the most joyful fashion show I’ve ever been fortunate enough to attend. There was plenty of waving from the runway, some coordinated posing, and adorable wobbly running, all grounded by Reverend Dr. Perryn Rice’s thoughtful emceeing in the Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom. Between shows, volunteer Donna Lane’s three daughters gave a touching speech to announce their mother as the recipient of the Heart and Soul Award.

The event raised more than $150,000, all of which will go directly to The Ashford Rise School of Dallas at the Moody Family YMCA. It also likely inspired a whole slew of attendees to look for ways to volunteer.

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